Beak

Beak Artist PhotoBeak has achieved that confoundingly difficult feat: originality and catchiness. He’s managed to integrate acoustic guitar with breakbeats and IDM in an ingeniously seamless way.

The first track of Amoral Mayor Earwig EP, how a hot air balloon works, starts out straightforwardly enough. Some quiet acoustic guitar plucks, repeating and slowly adding some more layers of guitar. Sure, there’s some digital delay but mostly it’s just guitar. Some bitcrushing distortion eases into the left speaker just enough to raise an eyebrow, but it keeps with the guitar thing. Oh nice, some drums. Maybe even live. Strange processed guitar in the background, almost voice-like. A single reversed cymbal, very quick. Drum break. Quite distorted. Wait, how did we end up here? By the time the second track, i saw two of me, starts our hot air balloon has caught the jet stream. No turning back now.

Amoral Mayor Earwig EP and Bishop-Whitney EP could be two sides of a single album. I tend to listen to these together. El Hacedor is perhaps a little more mysterious, a little mellower. All three are intriguing and highly enjoyable.

Links

Beak on MySpace (bonus downloadable track, Limozeen)

Amoral Mayor Earwig EP: Stream | archive.org | Monotonik netlabel
Bishop Whitney EP: Stream | archive.org | Monotonik netlabel
El Hacedor: Stream | archive.org | Monotonik netlabel

This is part of a series of netlabel reviews.

Glander: Heavy Weights & Vate

Glander: Heavy WeightsNormally I avoid repetition in music. Usually my iTunes is randomly shuffling from my “Not Recently Played” playlist. Yet I find myself playing these two netlabel albums by Glander multiple times a week. Music that is highly repetitive, with long, sprawling arcs, and four on the floor kick drum. Reading a description of it, I wouldn’t have given it much of a chance. But this is one of my favorite discoveries of the year.

Yuki Yaki’s blurb for Heavy Weights has this fanciful description: The tracks will take you on a dive cruise, each of them has its own little valley and its own moon. So: Take your time. This is exactly how I feel about it. The underwater aspect is suggested by the cover, which looks like a Shogun trilobite, and continues through the tracks with glossy, undulating textures. When this album starts I feel like I’m returning to a space that has continued to exist in my absence.

Glander: VateA couple of months after finding Heavy Weights, Vate (released on the 1 bit wonder netlabel) popped up in the archive.org feed. I literally cheered when I saw that there was more Glander to experience. Vate shows how dialed in to his technique Glander is, without at all being formulaic. The same masterful use of repetition is there but there’s a slightly grittier edge to the textures, and I almost get the sense that the camera has a wider angle lens, as bizarre as that is to say about music. These tracks are funkier, too. For instance, listen to the syncopation in the second track, Hmbrg, or the staccato gurgles in Drift. While Heavy Weights is a deep sea dive, Vate is a swooping flight through an urban landscape.

I’m still trying to understand why Glander’s use of repetition is so satisfying. On closer listening, the repeating textures are actually continually varying in small ways, and the different layers flow in and out of the foreground, creating complex interactions. There’s also a constant, but subtle, change in the surrounding space. Sometimes the textures will echo, and then it’s like they come close to you and have a very focused feel, and then drift outward into a cavernous space. There will be long stretches where you might not have noticed even that there were no drums, and then the kick will return at just the right moment.

Both of these albums, along with the bonus tracks available on Glander’s site, reward close listening as well as zoning out and using as background to working and working out.

Links

Glander (download individual tracks that have been on various compilations)

Heavy Weights: Stream | archive.org | Yuki Yaki
Vate: Stream | archive.org | 1 bit wonder

This is part of a series of netlabel reviews.

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 – 2007)

Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1975A giant in the modern music world passed away last week: Karlheinz Stockhausen. He seemed to appear in every chapter of the modern music books I studied in grad school, such was his influence. I had always thought him a realist and pragmatist, so I was surprised (and touched) a few years ago when our friends Nandini and Thomas gave me a sort of “call to creativity,” attributed to Stockhausen, which was quite spiritual. I then learned he was both a rationalist and a mystic, attributes that seem difficult to reconcile but somehow make sense. Continue reading “Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 – 2007)”

Julius Lagerfeld – Konterkonzept EP [ID19]

Julius Lagerfeld - Konterkonzept EP CoverKonterkonzept EP by Julius Lagerfeld from the Interdisco netlabel. This is music with an evil grin. The Joker’s henchmen would dance to this. Yes, it’s electronica, but moreso, it is electric.

According to Lagerfeld, “it was created by exclusively using hardware synthesizers to set a counterpoint to the prevailing approaches of laptop and software.” He seems to be onto something. This stuff just crackles with energy from the first few seconds and carries through to the end.

While the requisite minimal techno repetition is there, it exists simply to lull you while subtle surprises slink in and out of auditory view. Lagerfeld knows how to take his time and explore an idea, and then move into territories that at first are unexpected, then seem inevitable. This is true of the structure as well as the sound design.

Note: for some reason archive.org’s stream of this EP is playing back at a slower speed. Preview this one from the mp3 downloads instead.